Opinion: ‘GPs do great work... But some patients are struggling’

Peterborough’s MP Paul Bristow writes his regular column for the Peterborough Telegraph...

Saturday, 2nd October 2021, 2:15 pm
Are you having an issue with a GP appointment?

Lots of constituents are contacting me about access to their GP.

This prompted me to launch my own survey and visit Thistlemoor Medical Centre.

It was great to say thank you to all the hard-working staff there.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

We discussed their current workload, along with new and traditional ways of working. They clearly do wonderful work.

Thistlemoor and other surgeries are going above and beyond. However elsewhere patients are having issues.

“Basically you book a GP or nurse to call you. You can’t choose a time, just the day. You used to be able to get that call back on the same day or the next day. In recent months they don’t have any call back vacancies for at least 4-6 working group days.”

This lady eventually got a phone appointment with her GP. Only once the call had begun was she asked to send photos:

“I have a not-very-good camera on my mobile and, of course, Internet access, so I did.

However I was surprised because I thought for a rash the doctor would want to see me in person.

“Apparently not. He diagnosed me from my photos!”

It’s not necessarily dangerous to identify a rash from a photo.

Yet this lady wanted to be seen in person, not attempt to take photos of herself mid-call – and indicators can be missed.

At least she got an appointment. Others found; “Face to face ... is practically impossible. Only telephone appointments. Takes ages to get through then all appointments gone, even telephone ones.”

At a different GP surgery, it was a similar story: “you take ages to get through, then they tell you no appointments.”

The Government is clear that face-to-face appointments should be available for everyone who wants one, but this is not yet happening.

“When I need to see my respiratory nurse, she is fantastic and – she has gone above and beyond to oversee all my referrals, ensuring I am seen by the correct person at the correct time.

“She even rings me every 4 weeks to review my health and on occasions has called me in on that day to conduct my obs.

“If she can do this then why can’t the doctors, who get paid more than her, do this?”

I feel terrible writing this column as I know how hard GPs have worked.

But I cannot ignore the heart breaking pain some of my constituents are going through. That is why I have undertaken this survey:

What I need is for you to tell me whether your own experience is good or bad.

My survey is still running here: www.paulbristow.org.uk/form/gps-survey

It includes questions on new technology, which could help bring more flexibility and access.

Any changes obviously need to be done the right way.

One person commented from the middle ground: “We should be able to see a doctor, but I think the way forward for some cases is a telephone conversation depending on the patient’s needs.”

As so often, the key is choice.

I believe you should be able to get through to your practice, get an appointment and choose whether it’s in person, by phone or online.

Despite pandemic restrictions being lifted, some patients are struggling to see their GP when necessary.

This needs to end.